Sunday, July 9, 2017

the good view



Everyone kept telling me about Bonavista peninsula. Newfoundland (known by locals as The Island but by people in the rest of Canada as The Rock) is fractal in nature, made up of many rocky peninsulas and bays. Twilingate was one of those long arms. Bonvista is another.


Predictably, I loved this story on "hicksters," hip millennials who are moving back to Newfoundland, some after exile in Alberta or Ontario, and opening trendy cafes and breweries. Bonavista is the next Portland.

I'm at Skerwink hostel, among the best hostels I've stayed at anywhere in the world. (Hopewell, look out!) Gavin and Martha are recent transplants to Newfoundland. True travelers, they've thought of almost everything. All the best conversations, the kind that make a trip meaningful and worthwhile, long after you've gone home, happen around the kitchen table. We stayed up talking late into the night.
I arrived yesterday after driving six hours in the pouring rain on an occasionally rutted road, with moose warning signs, and thick fog. I awoke the next morning to this:
 It looks a lot like Pt Reyes, or like New Zealand.
After breakfast of homemade bread with five kinds of jam, I headed to Elliston to see the puffins. I'd be warned you needed to go early but it was already close to noon.
It's a pretty area, with dangerous large hidden crevices...but I didn't see any puffins.
Next I drove north to the tip of the peninsula, to Cape Bonavista. 
Nice rocks, eh? And yes, that is an iceberg off in the distance. We're back in iceberg alley.
I watched the black and white and orange birds playing in the turquoise water. I snapped their photos. 
But when I got back and looked at them on a computer, it was obvious these weren't puffins. The couple from New Brunswick did see puffins at the lighthouse--unfortunately one of them was being eaten by a raven.  

On the way back, I stopped in at Port Union, Canada's only town built by a union. I thought it looked like a movie set. Newfoundland has a thriving film industry.
These buildings housed the newspaper of the FPU, the fisherman's protective union. We have an old company town in Northern California in Scotia, which was built for lumbermill workers. It never occurred to me that fisherman would have a union--or a rabble-rousing newspaper. Port Union was restored 15 years ago. Bonavista in general has a lot of heritage buildings and sites.

Which is nor surprising considering John Cabot first landed here in 1497. 
Until Newfoundland joined Canada, many locals lived close to the sea, often on small islands. One of the terms of confederation was that Canada would provide health, power, water, and educational services--but they required many residents of remote villages to relocate closer to population centers.

This resettlement era, which extended from the 1950s through the 1980s caused great distress, breaking up communities that had lived in this place for generations. Some moved to St. John's, others to their children in Ontario.

At the brewery I met a local couple, and she said, like many Newfoundlanders I've met, that she'd been away for years, but finally, at long last, she was home.